Sportsman’s Corner: Venison for Meat Pies

Published: 12/5/2019 9:39:25 AM
Modified: 12/5/2019 9:39:15 AM

A treasured tradition in our family at Christmas each year is eating meat pie on Christmas Eve. My mother used a recipe from her mother and it has been used by a number of family members over the years. The secret ingredient is venison. Over the years, this writer has been fortunate (AKA lucky) enough to provide that ingredient on most occasions. On the other years, the burden has been placed on my brother Chris and more recently his son Jared. 

The need for meat for the pies was on my mind Monday as the season opened here in Massachusetts. Many hunters pray for fresh snow for the deer season and apparently a number of them were answered. Maybe too many, in fact, as the foot plus that fell from Sunday evening through Monday actually hindered hunters. Besides the challenge of moving through the woods, the heavy snow bowed trees, particularly evergreens, and that reduced visibility and mobility. Deer tend to “hunker down” during snowstorms and when they do move, the driving snow makes it difficult to determine how fresh tracks are and they disappear quickly.

The driving blizzard-like conditions kept a lot of hunters home. This hunter was feeling under the weather and did not get himself out to join the hunting party until after 9 and arrived just in time for the execution of the year’s first “drive” or “push.” Three of the eight members of the party were designated to move through an evergreen stand where deer had, in the past, been found during stormy conditions. My post was up on the ridge as the last defense if any deer took the long way around to escape. Shortly after the drivers began their walk, shots rang out in a sequence that sounded to me like more than one shooter. A call on the radio announced that Gabe Murphy had a buck down and two other “standers,” who both had antlerless (AKA doe) permits had fired at two does and another rack buck. A follow-up made sure that the shots had not connected and soon the buck was in the back of Gabe’s pickup.


That led to lunch break and some great “comfort” food with two slow cookers loaded with a pasta dish and a chili. Once fortified, we were back out to engineer another push. Weaving my way through the short distance to my designated position, it was hard to find a place with any visibility as the area had been logged 10 years ago and all the trees were hanging low from the weight of the snow, which was continuing to fall quite heavily. Then there was an opening with a lot of fresh deer tracks which I could overlook from a position that gave me a little panorama for about a hundred yards in two directions. Utilizing my “T-seat” it was time to settle in and wait.

The wait was not long before a running deer caught my eye. It and another deer stopped in the thick hemlocks but began milling around. My guess would be that they scented the next person in the line, and the wind favored my position. The gun was up and the scope had been used to determine if either had antlers but no rack was seen. The larger deer did begin to walk towards me and was now in a great position for a shot. With an antlerless permit in my pocket it was decision time. The deer was decent sized and the chance for a good shot was there. The truck was not far so the drag would be relatively easy. Then the meat pie for Christmas popped into my head and the shot was taken. The deer fell in its tracks. I know all the arguments to hold on to the permit for later but a “bird in the hand” is still valid.

There was soon real regret as a shot rang out as I was field dressing the deer, which turned out to be a button/spike buck with about an inch and a half of antlers. Jordan Fournier, Pete Murphy’s granddaughter, fired at a doe and it headed off in the driving snow. It was “all hands on deck” to assist in the finding of the deer and I could not participate. It turned out very well and the deer turned out to be a 107-pound doe and Jordy’s first deer. By the time I dragged my deer close to the truck, it was time for this old body, which has survived two heart attacks, to rest. Looking at the deer, I noticed that the Velcro strap that I had used to close the ear, with the tag attached inside in a clear license holder, was gone! That meant tramping back along the drag trail to find the tag. The red velcro strap was located but not the white tag in the clear holder. Fortunately, it was not far to my house and there I could reprint the tag after signing in to MassHuntFish. Thank God my daughter Jen was visiting as the printer was “having issues” but it was eventually printed and the deer could be checked in. It weighed in at 84 pounds on the scale at Flagg’s Tackle. 

It appears that the snow did reduce the kill total locally as the Greenfield Recorder reported Tuesday that the total number checked into the five Franklin County official check stations was 32 deer, down significantly from last year’s opening day tally of 91. It will be interesting to see how the tally ends up after the two-week shotgun season and the black powder season are completed.



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